Imagine it. You just ask the woman of your dreams to marry you. A few months later she became pregnant and (in a Maury Povich voice) “You know you are not the father.” I am not sure this is how Joseph imagined his life going, definitely not according to his plans.
I can’t imagine the emotions that went through Joseph’s head. I am sure he felt betrayed, cheated on, and wanted to walk away. He heard his fair share of criticisms about his wife-to-be. He probably punched a few people who took their opinions a little too far. He had to stand up for her, when, at times, he was not sure for himself if she was telling the truth. In fact, I think it was something he struggled with off and on, until Jesus began his work at age thirty. I am sure that Joseph saw flashes of Jesus’ brilliance, at times, but he still had to discipline this child. He had to teach him how to be a carpenter, how to treat people, and how to live life in their city.
I am not aware of too many families that gather together and the holidays bring peace. Oftentimes, it is a gathering of people who struggle to relate on a very deep level. It may be because others members have made choices that they disagree with or it may be a deep level hurt that can almost never be forgiven. Families are messy. You can’t ever really escape your family no matter the miles you put between yourself and them.
I was reminded of this dynamic while watching the The Judge, a recently released movie starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Downey Jr. plays the son who could never make up for some of the mistakes he made as a teenager. It made me think of the August: Osage County movie with male characters. The truths contained in these movies is that families are difficult to be around. If you think about it, nowhere else in life are we measured up against all that we hoped to be or do. Families can tend to be the scale that we tend to step on, when we have no business stepping on one.
Growing up, we all had these “larger than life” dreams and many of us feel like a failure for never realizing these dreams. I think we all have done this in some way, feeling like we have not measured up to what our family expected of us.
We hate to even visit, as it is a reminder of all the places that we will never visit. Without the distraction of children, visiting family is even more difficult. Conversations become a minefield of not wanting to offend, dredge in the past, or bring up past mistakes. Even if you can avoid all of these topics, just being in a place of your childhood can be difficult, passing by many of the photographs of a younger self who was not so jaded. The fact is, everyone feels this way in some way, especially the people you will be gathering with during this holiday season. We are all making the best of the choices and life circumstances that have happened to us.
So as you gather around family in the next few days, keep in mind that Joseph never asked for a pregnant fiance, Jesus never became the carpenter that he hoped he would, and God made a sacrifice few of us would be willing to do, all so that we may be forgiven and demonstrate that to others.
Your family is broken, it always will be, this is why God allowed His son to come and set us free, by setting others free of our expectations and judgements. Set your family free today and know they are who they are, give them to God and know that He will set your heart free to rise above past mistakes and lost dreams.